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A Beleaguered Station : The Memoir of Head constable John McKenna, 1891-1221

A Beleaguered Station : The Memoir of Head constable John McKenna, 1891-1221

John McKenna

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This is the first autobiographical account by a Catholic nationalist police officer of the 1912-1921 era.

This memoir of Head Constable John McKenna offers a unique insight into troubled times in Northern Ireland in the period leading up to partition.

Prompted by a sectarian attack on pilgrims processing to a boat in Larne which would take them to the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, a retired RIC Head Constable looks back on his 31 years service.

For McKenna the attack in the summer of 1932 represents the culmination of years of injustice perpetrated by a unionist hierarchy within the pre-partition RIC in Ulster and in post-partition northern society in general.

He believed the RIC hierarchy'€™s supine attitude towards Ulster loyalism was characterised, around the time of partition, by the '€˜B'€™ Specials being given an apparently free hand in Co. Tyrone '€“ committing injustices without fear of being brought to account. The memoir provides a contrast between relatively idyllic service in Galway and the harshness of northern political realities.

This is reinforced by the personal happiness McKenna enjoyed in the west where he met his wife, contrasted with the tragedy of the untimely deaths of three of his young children while serving in Ulster.

A man of his time, Head Constable McKenna'€™s voice deserves to be heard today and his story is relevant to understanding Northern Ireland'€™s political and policing problems in the present. Cross-community support for a local police force was lacking in 1920-21 and the events in the memoir point up how essential consensus is in any divided society, past or present.

Additional Information

Author John McKenna
Publisher Ulster Historical Foundation
Publication date 27 Jan 2009
Format Paperback
ISBN/EAN 9781903688434

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